In our modern economy 90% of wealth is generated through knowledge. While mainstream businesses and entrepreneurs have their innovation and creativity protected by intellectual property (IP), Indigenous knowledge - traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expression - have not received the same legal protection. Whether it be medicinal, crops, cultural/artistic, product or land related – Indigenous knowledge continues to be appropriated and capitalized on by outside sources without a proper legal regime in place. Inventiveness, know-how, effort and creativity can be protected by the law through patents, copyright, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indicators.
In order to prepare for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) modernization, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business is collaborating with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada, and Marketplace Framework Policy Branch to discuss Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights.
- Protect Indigenous trade in the NAFTA renegotiation
- Understand contributions of Indigenous knowledge to the Canadian economy
- Engage communities and businesses to build an appropriate mechanism to reconcile Traditional Knowledge with modern IP regulation
- Develop a framework to recognize and document the value Indigenous Traditional Knowledge contributes to the global value chain
- Clarify NAFTA’s implications for Indigenous IP
- Consider what the Innovation Economy could mean for Indigenous Businesses
- Decide on next steps to increase Indigenous engagement in NAFTA renegotiation
Christina Gray is a senior research associate with the International Law Research Program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
Oonagh E. Fitzgerald was director of international law at CIGI from April 2014 to February 2020.
In this role, she established and oversaw CIGI’s international law research agenda, which included policy-relevant research on issues of international economic law, environmental law, IP law and innovation, and Indigenous law.
Risa Schwartz is a sole practitioner, focusing on international law and the intersections between trade and investment law, environmental law and Indigenous rights. Risa formerly worked as a senior research fellow at CIGI, as counsel to the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs in Ontario and the Ministry of the Environment, and as a legal officer at the WTO.
Rohinton P. Medhora is president of the Centre for International Governance Innovation.